Bipartisan angst over the Obama administration’s Iran interim deal has heightened since it was announced. On Face the Nation, Sens. Bob Corer (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) were joined at the hip in their disdain and concern. Corker:
It’s very difficult to understand that, at the height of our leverage — we had six — we have six countries negotiating and the world behind us, we negotiated a deal of this nature with not a single centrifuge being dismantled, all of them spinning in perpetuity for the next six months.
And I think that it’s hard to see how you get to a place that meets the standard that we would want to meet at the end. And so I’m very concerned, especially with this interim deal, how we get to a place where Iran is not enriching constantly or where they’re right on the verge, always, of being able to break out and create a nuclear weapon.
I have strong concerns about the proliferation that’s going to occur in the area as people see this rogue nation being dealt with in this manner and basically us validating them over the next six months.
So, again, I know Senator Menendez and I both will be working to try to figure out some way of ensuring that we get to the appropriate end game. And it will be up to Senator Reid to decide whether we have that opportunity on the floor over the next two or three weeks or whether he’s going to continue to block for the administration so that that doesn’t occur.
But I do hope, this is something Senator Menendez has done an outstanding job on, I give him credit, he and Senator Kirk, we have put ourselves, our nation, in this place. And I think that Congress has played a very constructive role and can, if allowed over the next several months, I hope we’ll be able to.
Menendez confirmed there is no partisan divide here:
Well, look, I think creating a sanctions regime that is an insurance policy and also creates leverage for us is incredibly important. I’m concerned about some elements of the text that people haven’t focused on.
For example, already in that text as it relates to what is defined as a comprehensive solution, there is some suggestion that we are going to define what a mutually agreeable enrichment program is.
So we’ve already ceded a way from U.N. Security Council resolutions that say no enrichment.
Secondly, there is the ability to extend this interim agreement and to deal with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Well, unless you’re going to deal them away, I don’t know what there is to deal. The Security Council resolutions call for ceasing enrichment.
And, lastly, there is a provision here that envisions in a comprehensive solution a sunset clause that would say that after a period of time, which is not defined, that the Iranians would be treated as any non-nuclear weapons state. That means that they could, after that period of time, enrich uranium without any consequence and without any limitations. They could seek plutonium track without any limitations. Those are real concerns. So defining both what the end state is as well as having sanctions regime that is ready to go should the deal not fall through.
So how could the administration have entered into such a rotten deal at a time when it arguably could have accomplished so much more? It is hard to explain the Obama administration’s conduct unless you posit the following: The administration never intended to use military action. It had hoped sanctions might dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program, but sanctions didn’t do the trick. So now the goal is to prevent Israel from exercising the military option and acclimatize the West and the Middle East to an Iran with a nuclear enrichment program — one with an international stamp of approval. Looked at in this way, negotiator Wendy Sherman accomplished precisely what the administration wanted.
The complete switch in objective — from ending Iranian enrichment to legitimizing it — has shocked and dismayed those who didn’t suspect this was the “play” all along. Well-meaning Democrats and liberal pro-Israel pundits convinced themselves that the military option for the United States was real and that Obama would never sell out the West, our ally Israel and every Sunni Arab regime. Silly, them. If the bipartisan blowback surprises the administration, it is only because it seals the echo chamber very tightly and imagines the rest of the political world will be as eager to avoid confrontation, no matter the price, as the president is.
The interim deal may founder well before the six months runs out — or even before the clock starts ticking. For one thing, there is no real deal as of yet, and negotiations on implementing the interim deal are only now getting underway. Iran, if the past is any guide, will renege, re-negotiate and reinterpret what the negotiators thought had already been decided. Iran will limit inspections and seek to expand the range of activities that the West has now agreed are legitimate. Second, the deal, such as it is, only covers nuclear weapons facilities that we know about. Others may come to light, further undermining Obama’s “smart” diplomacy. Third, Iran may consider new U.S. sanctions, even those conditional on failure to complete a final deal, as violation of the agreement — and/or an excuse to up the ante. Finally, Iran may get caught cheating even under the most generous interpretation of the interim deal, either by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by Israel, which has every incentive to reveal Iranian mendacity. Ironically, in the event any of these occur, the administration probably will take the Iranians’ side — for fear their ludicrously inadequate and one-sided deal might be scuttled and thereby force it to disarm Iran (by force if need be), the one thing it abhors more than anything else.
In the meantime, the Saudis and Gulf states will plot out their nuclear arms race. The Israelis and Saudis will quietly exchange notes on their options. And, most important, the centrifuges will keep spinning.